Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holy Innocents

   Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. By traditional count, 14,000 infant boys under the age of 2 were slaughtered under Herod's orders in an unsuccessful attempt to kill the Messiah who could usurp his throne. (It has been suggested that given historical evidence, the number was nowhere near that number, but even one is too many.) In the western church this feast is celebrated on the 28th, not the 29th, so I had a gazillion hits on Lost Innocents yesterday from people searching for "holy innocents".

   We have our own holocaust of holy innocents now: 50 million babies a year are killed by abortion, 1.2 million in the U.S. alone. I had this feast on my mind yesterday as I was on Pinterest and I was searching for pro-life pins. Seeing pro-abortion propaganda is one of my triggers so I should have known better, but live and learn. I came across a pin (that had "pro-life" in its description, hence the appearance) that was short, to the point, and an out-and-out lie. It claimed that 10,000 women a year were killed by "unsafe" abortion before Roe vs. Wade, and none afterward. [The implication being that if abortion were made illegal 10,000 women a year would die again.] The truth is that many women die each year from "safe", legal abortion. This is a fact and you don't have to look too hard to find it. Another fact is that only a few hundred (tops) women a year were dying from "unsafe" abortion before it was legalized. Have a look at this:

CONFESSION OF AN EX-ABORTIONIST

By Dr. Bernard Nathanson
I am personally responsible for 75,000 abortions. This legitimizes
my credentials to speak to you with some authority on the issue.
I was one of the founders of the National Association for the Repeal
of the Abortion Laws (NARAL) in the U.S. in 1968. A truthful poll
of opinion then would have found that most Americans were against
permissive abortion. Yet within five years we had convinced the
U.S. Supreme Court to issue the decision which legalized abortion
throughout America in 1973 and produced virtual abortion on demand
up to birth. How did we do this? It is important to understand the tactics
involved because these tactics have been used throughout the western
world with one permutation or another, in order to change abortion law.
THE FIRST KEY TACTIC WAS TO CAPTURE THE MEDIA

We persuaded the media that the cause of permissive abortion was a
liberal enlightened, sophisticated one. Knowing that if a true poll
were taken, we would be soundly defeated, we simply fabricated the
results of fictional polls. We announced to the media that we had
taken polls and that 60% of Americans were in favour of permissive
abortion. This is the tactic of the self-fulfilling lie. Few people
care to be in the minority. We aroused enough sympathy to sell our
program of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal
abortions done annually in the U.S. The actual figure was approaching
100,000 but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1,000,000.
Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number
of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually.
The figure we constantly fed to the media was 10,000. These false
figures took root in the consciousness of Americans convincing many
that we needed to crack the abortion law. Another myth we fed to the
public through the media was that legalizing abortion would only
mean that the abortions taking place illegally would then be done
legally. In fact, of course, abortion is now being used as a primary
method of birth control in the U.S. and the annual number of abortions
has increased by 1500% since legalization.

   So, to get back to Pinterest, I left a comment on the pin, linking to the above article and another one, completely disproving the alleged "facts". The person who had pinned it commented back and questioned the veracity of the sources and claimed that the entire argument was one of "supremacy of control over your own body". At this point my blood pressure was probably 200/130 and my hands were shaking. I left another comment (that did not have profanity in it, despite how I felt) and then refused to respond to further comments. An hour later I looked and the pin had been taken down. One small victory, I thought.

   I was very, very angry and as that started to settle down I felt very despondent. I have prayed for years and years that abortion might end. I said ages ago that this was one thing I would not stop fighting as long as there is breath in my body. I have begged a woman not to kill her miraculously surviving twin but carry it and I would adopt it. She said adoption was "cruel" and aborted him anyway. This is not the only example. I realized I was magnificently failing to distinguish the sinner from the sin and was frankly hating people who persisted in their delusions and either killed babies or supported and encouraged other people to do so. I knew that if I had the knowledge that any of these people were about to land in Hell I wouldn't feel sorry. What a terrible thing. Lord have mercy.

   I felt like my prayers had been useless all these years. That I had never helped one person, never changed one heart, never saved one life. I have found out a woman who I fervently prayed for aborted her 14 week baby anyway and within a couple weeks was on drugs and alcohol, suicidal, and had her living children removed from her. What happened to all of those prayers?

This morning as part of my daily reading I read this:  
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. [Luke 9:51-56, ESV]
   Oh my. I can just see James and John angry, humiliated, vengeful and wanting fire to rain from heaven and destroy that city. Kind of like me. We are not told exactly what Christ said, but he basically told them to shut up and they left. In other words, I need to let the comments go and walk away. I was thinking about Jonah too. Boy, was he mad when God had compassion on the folks in Ninevah after they repented! He had even gotten himself a good seat on the hill to watch the fireworks but God had mercy instead. [I've always thought the book of Jonah was a hilarious story.] I felt kind of like that too.

  Because this happens a lot I shouldn't be surprised, but lo and behold, what was another one of my readings this morning?
When we see that the people around us have no love for God we are distressed. But with our distress we achieve nothing at all. Nor do we achieve anything by trying to persuade them to change their ways. That's not right either. There is a secret, however, and if we understand it, we will be able to help. The secret is our prayer and our devotion to God so that His grace may act. We, with our love, with our fervent desire for the love of God, will attract grace so that it washes over those around us and awakens them to divine love. Or rather God will send His love and will rouse them all. What we are unable to do, His grace will achieve. With our prayers we will make all worthy of God's love.
-Wounded by Love, p. 185, Elder Porphyrios
Fortunately I had the grace to laugh at myself (a good night's sleep helps). There's my answer.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Feast of Stephen and Good King Wenceslaus

This was going to be a simple post about "Good King Wenceslaus" but I was surprised in the course of my research.


First, the lyrics:

Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.

“Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou knowst it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither,
Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together,
Through the cold wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.

“Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread thou in them boldly,
Thou shall find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
He who now will bless the poor shall himself find blessing.

Love it. These were written in 1853 by John Mason Neale. I was surprised to find that while this carol is a popular one today, many people were scandalized that the lyrics were set to  "Tempus adest floridum" ("It is time for flowering"), a 13th-century spring carol published in a Finnish book.


Translation:

Spring has now unwrapped the flowers, day is fast reviving,
Life in all her growing powers towards the light is striving:
Gone the iron touch of cold, winter time and frost time,
Seedlings, working through the mould, now make up for lost time.

Herb and plant that, winter long, slumbered at their leisure,
Now bestirring, green and strong, find in growth their pleasure;
All the world with beauty fills, gold the green enhancing,
Flowers make glee among the hills, set the meadows dancing.

Through each wonder of fair days God Himself expresses;
Beauty follows all His ways, as the world He blesses:
So, as He renews the earth, Artist without rival,
In His grace of glad new birth we must seek revival.

Earth puts on her dress of glee; flowers and grasses hide her;
We go forth in charity—brothers all beside her;
For, as man this glory sees in th’awakening season,
Reason learns the heart’s decrees, hearts are led by reason.

Praise the Maker, all ye saints; He with glory girt you,
He Who skies and meadows paints fashioned all your virtue;
Praise Him, seers, heroes, kings, heralds of perfection;
Brothers, praise Him, for He brings all to resurrection!

Well, I can see how that might have been a little out of place. For us today the lyrics and the melody seem inextricably wedded.

St. Wenceslaus
St. Stephen
   There is something else interesting I noted: the date of the feast of St. Stephen the first martyr. Western tradition celebrates it on December 26th, the day after Christmas. In the east it is celebrated on December 27th. As Orthodox we celebrate the Synaxis of the Theotokos on the 26th. It was in the 7th century that the feast of the Protomartyr Stephen was moved from the second to the 3rd day of Christmas, the 27th. Amusingly, the feast of St. Wenceslaus is September 28th although everyone seems to associate him more with the feast of St. Stephen.



Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christ is born! Glorify Him!



Thy nativity, O Christ our God,
has shown to the world the light of wisdom.
For by it those who worshiped the stars 
were taught by a star to adore Thee,
the Sun of Righteousness,
and to know Thee the Orient from on high.
O Lord Glory to Thee!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Light in the Darkness

Today, these words seem just as terrible, as awesome, as wonderful, as staggering...as they did 2,000 years ago:

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God. [John 1:1]

In Him was life; 

and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness, 

and the darkness comprehended it not. [John 1:4-5]

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. [John 1:14]


Surely these are some of the most beautiful words ever written.

From Fr. Stephen Freeman's post "What's in the Cave":

The cave of Bethlehem resembles the cave of Hades into which Christ descends at His death. It also resembles the space framed by the rocks in most icons of Christ’s baptism. The same space can be seen on most icons of the crucifixion (beneath the cross and framing a skull). This iconographic similarity is not accidental. The cave of Bethlehem is meant to resemble the cave of Hades (just as the child in swaddling clothes resembles a body wrapped for burial). It resembles the cave of Hades for the same reason that the space framed by the rocks at Christ’s theophany resembles the cave of Hades. They are pointing to one and the same thing: Christ Incarnation is God’s descent into our world where sin and death reign. The incarnation of the Word is immediately a challenge to the darkness of death and hell.

St. John makes this clear in the prologue of his gospel. He speaks of Christ as the “Light of the world,” and within the same breath brings that Light into conflict with the darkness: “the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

(source)

(source)

Also from Fr. Stephen:
 
The same darkness marks the world to our day. The Light still shines and the darkness does not overcome it – but it is in darkness that the Light shines. The cave is the world – make no mistake.

Those who are baptized into Christ are baptized into His death according to St. Paul. It is also true that those who are baptized into Christ “receive the Light of Christ.” But to participate in the Light of Christ in this world is to be light in the midst of darkness.

I happened to see this example of a light in the darkness today. Please watch.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Readying the church...










Under large icons: magnolia leaves, nandina berries and foliage, camellia japonica blossoms
Around stand icons: nandina berries and foliage, camellia japonica blossoms
(plus two tiny poinsettias I found today in memory of Innocent and Andrew)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Four days til'...

We have a house full of sick people. I dragged myself out of bed today to finish decorating the tree (only two casualties - better than most years) and after taking some hefty cold medicine was able to finish decorating the inside of the house and cut some greenery. I feel like I have tapioca pudding for brains so I have nothing to offer here except for some not-quite-in-focus photos. Do not be deceived: I didn't photograph the pile of medicine cups waiting to be washed, etc.








Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Review of "The Scent of Holiness"

[This is the review I wrote for Amazon at Matushka Constantina's request (an honor, Matushka!) and I'm reproducing it here. The Scent of Holiness by Matushka Constantina Palmer is available from Amazon and from Conciliar Press.)


Having visited both men's and women's monasteries I can attest to the fact that while they are similar in many ways, each has its own “flavor” or character. Most of the books written about Orthodox monasticism are written about men's monasteries. The fact that The Scent of Holiness was written by a woman about women's monasteries is significant and a welcome addition.

Matushka Constantina spent considerable time visiting several women's monasteries in Greece. She grew to know the nuns well and in the end was very much an “insider”. She is therefore able to give us a unique perspective on the day-to-day life in an Orthodox women's monastery. The nuns are not plaster saints but ordinary women “working out [their] salvation in fear and trembling.”

More importantly, through the numerous vignettes we are able to glean some of the simple lessons monasticism has to teach us. Lack of curiosity, humility, self-knowledge, control of thoughts, and obedience are a few of these priceless pearls. Matushka is careful to point out that never during her stays was she deliberately “taught” by the nuns. They always taught by example or by relating stories of their own.

Not everything in the book is serious, far from it! In the course of her time in Greece Matushka was learning Greek and there are several humorous anecdotes in which this elementary knowledge played a part – to the great amusement of the nuns. My favorite by far is the story of the “dark animal that walks in the air.”

Reading The Scent of Holiness is akin to visiting a monastery yourself. You will find yourself unable to put it down and when you finally emerge, blinking in the daylight, you will not be quite the same person who picked up the book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

 Matushka Constantina blogs at Lessons from a Monastery.

Surrounded

 
I was feeling blue this morning, missing the boys and just a bit down in general. I was sitting next to Father and he said to "go ahead and say prayers and get it over with." [Note: I was procrastinating] I said, "Gee, that's not the way to think about it! I was hoping for some consolation." He said, "Yes, but sometimes that's just what you have to do."

True. If we always waited for things to "feel right" then most of us would pray very seldom. 

But to get back to this morning, I started thinking about the consolation I was seeking. I picked up my prayer book and an index card fell out of the back. I had written on it words from my spiritual father given to me after Innocent died. On the back I had added a few things after Andrew died. I used to pull this card out every single time I said prayers and read it to remind myself of things that I would otherwise forget in my depression and grief. At the very top I had written, "Fr. M. loves me and prays for me at home and at church." Isn't it wonderful to know that someone loves us? Most of us are loved by many people, but they are people and subject to temptation just as we are.
We must give our heart to someone, and if we give it to any person on this planet, this person can harm us. We all seek boundless and unchangeable love and infinite peace, but who can give it to us? Not even our parents, our brothers, or our sisters. Every one of them can abandon, despise, or harm us. Why? Because we are all limited by time and space and we all battle against the unclean powers, which are constantly defiling our thoughts.
 
-Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, p. 121
 I suddenly was reminded of something that I had (shamefully) not done in weeks. I would pray rounds on my prayer rope asking the intercessions of my favorite saints. Because I have a memory like a sieve when it comes to important things - alas, trivia is no problem - I decided to write down the names of those saints in the empty space left on the card as an encouragement to pray:

"Holy Mother Macrina pray to God for me!
Holy St. Anna pray to God for me!
Holy St. Nectarios pray to God for me!"
etc.

I looked back over the list, thinking carefully to see if I had left anyone out, and in doing so I was suddenly aware of the very strong feeling of not being alone. In fact it was so strong it startled me. I felt absolutely surrounded by the love and prayers of these saints and holy elders and eldresses. The things I had been worried about and fretting over seemed very far away and unimportant. I basked in it for a minute.

Incongruously, the lyrics to the old show, "Cheers", came to mind:
 
Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

Wouldn't you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
your name.

Naturally, these are worldly lyrics, referring to a bar of all things, but it highlights something universal in all of us: we all want to find a place where we are known and loved and welcomed. All of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, are looking for that. What defines us is where we search and what we expect to find. We know, because Christ has told us, that we will not find it in the world. Because we are all created in the image and likeness of God we are capable of loving each other, but it is clouded by petty jealousies, disagreements, pride, etc. God, through His saints, His mother, and not least of all, Himself, is the only One capable of giving us what we are all so desperately searching for.
 
[As a footnote, I was truly surprised that something so simple as just writing down, "Saint X pray to God for me!" for all of my favorite saints and elders had such a stunning result.  I'm not in the business of giving spiritual advice, but I think this is something that anyone could do.]

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pseudo-humility

Don't let's turn back to sins we have confessed. The recollection of sins is harmful. Have we asked for forgiveness? Then the matter is closed. God forgives everything with confession. We mustn't turn back and enmesh ourselves in despair. We need to be humble servants before God and have a sense of  gratitude for the forgiveness of our sins. 

It is not healthy to be excessively downcast on account of your sins and to turn with such revulsion against your evil self that you end up in despair. Despondency is the worst thing. It is a snare set by Satan to make a person lose his appetite for spiritual things and to bring him into a state of despair, inactivity and negligence. In this state a person is unable to do anything and rendered useless. The person says, 'I am sinful and wretched, I am this, I am that, I didn't do this, I didn't do that... I should have done that then, now it's too late, nothing can be done... I've wasted my life, I am unworthy...' He is brought into a sense of inferiority and consumed by fruitless self-reproach. Do you know what a destructive thing that is? It is pseudo-humility.

All these things are symptoms of a person in despair whom Satan has brought under his sway. Such a person reaches the point where he doesn't even want to receive Communion because he regards himself as unworthy of everything. He attempts to negate everything about himself and is rendered useless. This is a snare set by Satan so that a person will lose his hope in God's love. All this is quite terrible and contrary to the Spirit of God.

I, too, think that I am sinful and that I am not living as I should. Nevertheless, I make  whatever distresses me into prayer. I do not shut it up inside myself. I go to my spiritual father and confess it and it is finished and done with. Don't let's go back and recriminate and say what we didn't do. What is important is what we will do now, from this moment onwards — as Saint Paul says, forgetting the things that are behind and stretching forward to the things that are before us. [Phil. 3:14]

-Wounded by Love, Elder Porphyrios, p. 175-176

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fr. Demetrios Carellas on the slaughter of innocents

 [Thoughts from Fr. Demetrios Carellas, Nativity of the Theotokos Monastery, Saxonburg, PA:]
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am certain that all of you have been offering prayers for the families of the 27 people, 20 of whom were children under the age of 8, who were murdered this morning by a deranged young man who then took his own life.  All over our Nation, leaders in the News Media and Government, together with Religious superiors,  have been offering their condemnation of this terrible crime; and calling for prayers and support to be given to the family members of the slain.  Only God knows the intensity of their pain --- the fragmentation of their hearts!

While it is impossible to circumscribe with words the magnitude of this tragedy,  I feel that these words of an Orthodox priest succinctly describe a major cause of it:
There is no such thing as a Cultural or Societal Vacuum. If there is the absence of good, there will be the presence of evil. The sad truth is that a society that thinks so little of life as to murder the unborn does not have the moral cultivation to hold up life in any other stage of its existence either."  
 --- Fr. David Sterry Mahaffey
Beloved sojourners on the sea of life, an average 3600 innocent children are murdered - legally and for profit everyday in our Nation!  This crime against God has been going on for 40 years, and has resulted in the slaughter of over 55 million pre-born - and occasionally, born - children.  Unfortunately, the silence - from media, governmental and religious leaders - regarding this ungodly, DAILY infanticide is deafening!

And what about each one of us?  All of us expressed shock and horror at what happened today in an elementary school in Connecticut.  I am sure many of us shed tears.  Why do we not shed even more tears at the daily legalized murder of over 180 times more children than lost their lives today at that public school?  Why do we not speak out against this despicable, sacrilegious, demonic infanticide?  Why do we vote for people who champion a woman's "right" to hire a hit man (who poses as a physician) to kill her baby?

For now, I humbly entreat you to join with me in begging our Lord to embrace those departed souls, killed today, with His great mercy; and to give His Divine compassion and support to their families.

In just 10 days, we will again be given the opportunity to re-live the awesome birth of "the newborn Child, the God before time."  Let us prepare the cave of our hearts to receive Him!

Your  unworthy servant in Christ Jesus,

+Papa Demetrios

Friday, December 14, 2012

Lord have mercy!!

We're home now. On the way back we turned on NPR at 5:00 to listen to All Things Considered. That's when we heard the horrible news of what transpired in CT today. I don't even want to know more details. I can't possibly comprehend the agony so many people are suffering right now. Lord have mercy on all of us.

And memory eternal to the 28 who lost their lives. May they find peace with God.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How do monastics help the Church?

To many people the monk seems remote and unsociable. It seems that he is concerned only with his own soul and that he offers nothing to the Church or to the world. That is not the case. If the church has been preserved for so many years, this is due to monasticism. The person who enters a monastery and offers everything to Christ enters into the Church. Perhaps someone will ask, "Do those who live alone in a cave help the Church?" The answer is always "yes". The cave-dwellers help the Church in a mystical way. A monk who lives in a cave may not cultivate trees and vegetable gardens, he may not write books and do other things that help towards spiritual life and progress, but there he creates and develops and is assimilated to God. Hermits stay in caves so that no one distracts them from the spiritual life. With their fervent and pure life and above all with their prayer they help the Church. I'll say something that will seem grossly excessive to you. But I want you to believe it. It is about the contribution of a monk's prayer. Listen to me carefully.

Let us assume that there are seven educated preachers who live holy lives. Their rhetorical skill is unparalleled. Each has a parish with ten thousand parishioners. Every day their words are heard by seventy thousand people. Thousands who hear them are moved to repentance and return to Christ. Whole families are saved. Nevertheless, one monk whom no one sees and who sits in a cave somewhere has a much greater effect with his humble prayer. One produces a greater effect than seven. That is what I see. I am sure of it. That is how important a monk's prayer is. He is on his own in his cell, but the reverberations of his prayer reach everyone, even if they are far off. With his prayer, the monk participates in all the problems which people face and works miracles. His contribution, accordingly, is greater than that of the most gifted and worthy preacher.
-Wounded by Love, Elder Porphyrios, p. 171

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Conception of the Theotokos by St. Anna

Although I celebrate the feast of my patron, St. Anna, on July 25th (the feast of her falling asleep) I joke that I take all the feast days I can get! Last night at Vespers I found the "Lord I call..." verses for the feast especially beautiful so I copied them below (courtesy OCA website).

Sts. Joachim and Anna

"Lord I Call..." verses from Vespers, tone 4
 
The barren Anna leaped for joy when she conceived Mary the Virgin,
who in turn will conceive in the flesh God the Word.
From the fullness of her joy, she cried out:
Rejoice with me, all you tribes of Israel,
for I have conceived according to the will of God my Savior.
He has answered my prayer and ended my shame,
in fulfillment of His promise, He will heal the pains of my heart,//
through the pains of child-bearing.”

 
He who made waters gush forth from the rock,
permitted your womb to carry the ever-Virgin Mary
through whom our salvation will come.
By this, you were delivered from shame;
no longer will you dwell on earth as barren,
for you will bear the earth bringing forth the Tree of Life.
According to His will, He has delivered the human race from all shame,
by taking on our human form and becoming Man,//
for He is rich in mercy.

 
Behold! The promises of the Prophets are fulfilled!
The holy mountain is planted in the womb.
The divine ladder is set up, the great throne of the King is ready.
The place for the Lord's passage is prepared.
The dry bush, which the fire could not consume, is blossoming.
The treasury of grace is an abundant flow of blessing
which heals the barrenness of Anna,//
whom we glorify with faith.

Also, a post I wrote two years ago on this feast is here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

If you repent...

...but fall into the same sin again:
This is proof that one has not put away the prime cause of that sin, so that from it as from a root the same growth comes again necessarily. So one who wishes to be cleansed of sins that grow out of others should remove the first causes of those sins.

-St. Basil the Great
 
[I illustrated this in the story, The Weed.]

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Middle of the Night Adventure

Why do so many of my adventures involve cats? We narrowly avoided acquiring a fourth cat Wednesday night. However narrow it was, we did manage to avoid it. But only because the cat wouldn't come.

I was getting tucked into bed to read (ahhh...) when Father said, "I hear a cat. I think it's trying to get in." I didn't have my 'ears' in so I fetched them and put them in and listened. I didn't hear anything. Nevertheless I went to the front door and opened it. Indiana ran in and I thought that was the end of that. Father came to the door to listen but we didn't hear anything else. It must have been Indy. Case closed.

We went back to our room and suddenly I heard a cat. It was pretty loud (how I missed hearing it the first time is beyond me) and sounded like it was coming from the porch. It was definitely not one of ours. I hopped back out of bed and went to the front door, turning on the porch light as I opened it. Nothing. I figured I must have scared it off the porch. Father suggested I turn the porch light off and we waited just inside the door. After a while, there it was:

Miaow!! Miaow!! Miaow!! Miaow!! (etc.)

Blast it all, where was the thing?

"I think it's under the porch."
"No, I think it's across the street."
"All the way over there?! It's so loud!"
"I know but that's where it sounds like it's coming from."
"Well, you may be right. I can't locate sound as well as you can."

The cat had stopped howling by now but as a car went by I could see a whitish object under a car across the street. Gotta be the cat. Hm. We stood and thought for a moment.

"Why do you think it's howling so loud?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's lost and hungry."

Oh, shoot. That's right; tug at my heartstrings. I can't bear the thought of a lost, scared (my interpretation), hungry animal.

"Well, what are we going to do?" (Visions of a fourth cat dance gloomily in my head.)
"Why don't you put some food out for it?"
"Where?"
"By the cat, of course."

Miaow!! Miaow!! Miaow!! Miaow!! (etc.)

*Sigh* I walked back to the back door where we keep the cat food and dished out some dry food on a paper plate, grabbing a flashlight at the same time. I carried this back to the front porch. The cat was having a field day and it was no Caruso. I remembered my bare feet and stepped into my room but only saw Father's slippers. Oh well, better than nothing.

"Do you think it's hurt?"
"No telling."
"If it's hurt there's no way it's going to let me anywhere near it."
"Mmm."
"Wait, just how am I going to get the food out there?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean I'm standing here in my pajamas and it's 11 o'clock at night."
"So just go out there."
"Why don't you go out there?"
"I can't. I'm a priest. Priests don't do that sort of thing."
"I'll go out there, but I swear, I'm putting this whole thing in a blog post and telling on you."
"Go right ahead."

I shuffled carefully down the steps and the front walk in Father's slippers which were only about 5-7 sizes too big.

Shuffle, scrape, shuffle, scrape, shuffle, scrape...

I thought the whole neighborhood was going to hear me and go to their windows to see this crazy woman in pajamas of the voluminous flannel type shuffling down the sidewalk in massive slippers and carrying a plate of cat food. Merciful heavens, just like Arabella Figg. I tried to shuffle a little faster. The caterwauling had stopped for the moment. I shone the flashlight across the street and saw a vague pale shape still under the car. Chirping to the cat to get its attention, I left the plate of food at the end of our driveway, directly across the street from it. I rapidly shuffled back to the porch and Father.

"Where did you leave it?"
"At the end of the driveway, weren't you watching?"
"It's never going to come get it there."
"Well, what you do want me to do? Go lurking around the neighbors' cars in the middle of the night? They'll think someone's trying to break in."
"Ehh, no one is going to see you."
"But there are cars passing all the time!"
"So what?"

I am so going to write that post and tell the world. That's "so what."

I shuffled back down the steps but this time wised up and left the slippers on the walkway and tiptoed down the sidewalk in my bare feet. At least I wasn't making a racket. Praying a car wouldn't come along and honk at me derisively I ran across the street with the plate. I put it on the ground near the front tires of the car and peered under the car with the flashlight. I saw white and yellow legs for a minute and then they disappeared. The cat had crawled up under the car. I called to it (quietly) but without any hope it would come. I figured if it could climb it couldn't be horribly hurt (if it were) and at least it would have some food. I pushed the plate a little farther up under the car and crossed back across the street, grabbing the slippers on my way to the porch. I wondered what the people were going to think when they saw a plate of cat food out there in the morning.

We waited for a few minutes and I shined the light back at the car but didn't see anything. The miaowing had stopped.

"Guess we've done what we could."
"Yep. Do you realize what time it is? We've got Liturgy in the morning."

All was quiet when I got back in bed...and this time it stayed quiet.

And now I've written the promised post. (c;

St. Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra and Lycia

Joyous Feastday!!!


Traditional Hymn to Saint Nicholas
O who loves Nicholas the Saintly,
O who serves Nicholas the Saintly.
Him will Nicholas receive,
and give help in time of need.
Holy Father Nicholas.

O who dwells in God's holy mansions;
Is our help on the land and oceans.
He will guard us from all ills,
keep us pure and free from sins,
Holy Father Nicholas.

Holy Saint, listen to our prayers.
Let not life lead us to despair;
All our efforts aren't in vain,
singing praises to your name;
Holy Father Nicholas.

Some Resources:

PDF of music

Link to the St. Nicholas Center (a wealth of information on St. Nicholas)

Interesting post on the "historic" St. Nicholas

Listen to The Life and Miracles of St. Nicholas on AFR.

Learning Basket for St. Nicholas on Charming the Birds from the Trees

HUGE list of resources on Mystagogy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"Having Tea with the Devil"

Here on this earth people should strive to reject the suggestions of the spirits of evil. The Holy Fathers tell us always to be vigilant and to be aware that any thought that disturbs our inner peace comes directly from hades, and that we must not accept such a thought but reject it immediately. If we enter into conversation with such a thought [my spiritual father calls this "having tea with the devil"] we will soon be caught in its net. Many other thoughts will be born from that one thought from hell, and it is only much later that a person sees where his thoughts have taken him and what he has done. One evil thing leads to another, and when a person comes to his senses, he says, "Whatever made me do this? I used to be at peace, and now all of a sudden everything has gone wrong." The reason everything went wrong is that we were not vigilant enough.
-Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, pp. 187-188
 

Free Pattern for Small Crocheted Ball



Small Crocheted Ball

Materials:
Fingering yarn
Size D or E crochet hook
Yarn needle
Something for stuffing (literally anything - I used scraps of an old washcloth)

Start with a magic circle
row 1: ch 1, 4 sc in circle, join with sl (5sc)
row 2: turn, ch 1, 2 sc in each st, join with sl (10 sc)
row 3: turn, ch 1, alternate 1 sc and 2 sc in each stitch, join with sl (15 sc)
row 4: turn, ch 1, sc in next 2 st, 2 sc in third st* continue around, join with sl (20 sc)
row 5-7: turn, ch 1, sc in each st, join with sl (20 sc)
row 8: turn, ch 1, *sc in first 3 st, skip 4th st* continue around, join with sl (15 sc)
[This is a good time to stuff the ball. Add additional stuffing as you continue if needed. I suggest making sure the yarn end at the start of the project is inside the ball so you have one less end to weave in at the end.]
row 9: turn, ch 1, *sc in first 2 st, skip 3rd st* continue around, join with sl (10 sc)
row 10: turn, ch 1, sc in every other st, join with sl (5 sc)
Cut yarn, leaving 6 inch tail. Thread needle with yarn tail and weave top loops of each sc. Pull yarn tight to close hole. Weave in ends.


Note: This general pattern can be used to create any size ball. Things to remember:
  1. You can use any yarn, just use a crochet hook that is "too small" for the gauge yarn so it will result in a tight crochet.
  2. Cotton yarn results in a tighter ball than stretchier yarn.
  3. To make a larger ball, just keep the pattern going after row 4 (i.e. - 2sc in every 4th st, 2sc in every 5th st, etc.). To do the second half you just reverse the pattern (i.e. - skip every 5th st, then 4th, etc.)
  4. Every time you add a row to the pattern, you'll have to add about 2 rows to the middle section (in which you're just putting 1 sc in every st).
  5. If you're making a ball for use by a baby, use the cut-off end of a stocking to hold the stuffing inside the ball. (Insert the stocking with the open end coming out of the partly-made ball; stuff the stocking until it fills the ball; tie off or stitch closed the stocking and cut off excess.) This prevents the stuffing (especially poly-fil) escaping from between the stitches and being eaten by the baby.
[Please let me know if you see any mistakes!! Thank you.]


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012

Envy

Christ Heals the Bent Woman (source)
Certain angels first failed to preserve their dignity and later, as a result of the envy of these fallen angels, our forebears Adam and Eve also fell. This very same trait, envy, has put down its roots in us, too. Envy stops at nothing and shouts contradictions in God's face all the time and everywhere.

How does envy act? Envy is a spirit from hades. It battles unceasingly against righteousness and God. God is Love, and envy cannot bear it when we do good to our neighbor. When the Lord, Who is Love, healed the old woman who had been bent over for eighteen years, evil showed its face at once and immediately began to rebel, for envy cannot bear it when good is done to anyone (cf. Luke 13:11-17). Envy never stops; the spirit of hades envies all men for all things.

One of the God-bearing Fathers, St. Nilus the Myrrh-gusher...has explained to us many of the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. He said that envy was the seal of the Antichrist on the heart of man. Do you now see what a terrible thing envy is? But alas, we often envy our neighbor, even our closest of kin. We do not care even to attempt to heal ourselves from this affliction and come to our senses.

-Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine our Lives, p. 184

Obedience to an Elder

Obedience to an elder is a great virtue, a great advantage. It is everything. You must pass through obedience to be a complete person, in order to face the difficulties of human life. Without humility and without obedience, you do not have the grace of God. If you do not pass through humility and therefore through obedience you have a very hard time. Lack of obedience is due to egotism and self-love. Egotism and pride engendered the disobedience which ejected us from Paradise. A proud person can never be obedient. He always wants to examine and question what he is told in order to see if it's right or wrong and to respond accordingly. Or else he does it, but with protestations and objections,believing that in this way he is demonstrating his freedom. But in obedience a person discovers true freedom, whereas slavery is that which compels him not to obey. When he obeys, he enters into the freedom of the children of God.

-Elder Porphyrios, Wounded by Love, p. 163

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Consolation of those in distress

First Steps
"O my beloved Queen, my hope, O Mother of God, protector of orphans and protector of those who are hurt, the savior of those who perish and the consolation of all those who are in distress, you see my misery, you see my sorrow and my loneliness.  Help me, I am powerless, give me strength.  You know what I suffer, you know my grief - lend me your hand because who else can be my hope but you, my protector and my intercessor before God?  I have sinned before you and before all people.  Be my Mother, my consoler, my helper.  Protect me and save me, chase grief away from me, chase my lowness of heart and my despondency.  Help me, O Mother of God!"

-Fr. Arseny
h/t Fr. Demetrios Carellas email

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Blogiversary Giveaway Winner!

I used Random.org to draw a random number from 1 to 20 right at noon. Here is the result:


The person who left comment #4 was...


Congratulations, Michelle!